Are Nigeria’s GMO Food Warnings A Precursor For A Potential Fine?

Are Nigeria’s GMO Food Warnings A Precursor For A Potential Fine?

Nigeria is threatening to shut down supermarkets selling genetically modified foods, and it has ordered South African grocery giant Shoprite and others to withdraw all GMO food from their shelves until the government can check the labels, Africa Review reported.

Most GMO food sold in Nigeria is certified, but Nigeria wants to double check and do its own certification, the country’s biosafety director said.

Unsuspecting Nigerian shoppers have been buying GMO food and complained that store managers refused to properly label the food, according to the report.

Nigerians have nothing to fear about GMO products, said Rufus Ebegba, director of the National Biosafety Management Agency.

“We are not saying that genetically modified organisms are bad, but (want) to be sure that what we are consuming are safe,” he said. “Nigerians do not need to worry, there is no cause for alarm, and the agency will make sure that things are done right in this country.’’

He said the point is to ensure that no untested GMO products find their way to the country’s markets.

“The directive was to all department stores and superstores that are selling genetically modified foods,” Ebegba said.

The South Africa government released a statement Wednesday saying most South Africans are aware they are consuming genetically modified food.

Results of a recent public perception survey show that 48 percent of South Africans are aware that they are eating genetically modified organisms, while 49 percent believe it is safe to do so.

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The survey, “Public Perceptions of Biotechnology in South Africa,” was conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council.

Genetically modified (GM) crops have had a positive economic impact on South Africa, said Phil Mjwara, director of the Department of Science and Technology.

In 2014, South Africa was growing more than 2.7 million hectares of GM crops. About 86 percent of corn produced in South Africa and 90 percent of soy is genetically modified. Cotton is 100 percent genetically modified, Mjwara said.

The survey, a second of its kind, was conducted among 2,900 adults in 500 areas of South Africa. Attitudes tend to be more positive among younger survey takers, said Michael Gastrow with the Human Sciences Research Council.

GMO crops still remain a source of public controversy, Mjwara said. “This controversy contributes to extreme precautionary approaches by some countries, resulting in increased regulatory burdens and delays, with associated development costs, timelines and risks that have limited the number of countries adopting the technology — including countries in Africa.

“(This has) limited the application of the technology to relatively few crops, with limited traits. Only a handful of developers – usually multinational companies – have the capability and the resources to commercialize GM crops,” Mjwara said, according to SANews.gov.

No GM foods should be sold in any Nigerian supermarkets, labelled or otherwise, until permits are obtained from the National Biosafety Management Agency, Ebegba said, according to Premium Times:

“We are aware that some of these stores import foods from countries that are already consuming GMs,” Ebegba said. “We understand the economic benefits of these stores to the Nigerian economy, especially in the areas of job creation and markets, but we must know that the law is not a respecter of persons.

“The idea that Nigerian laws are not being implemented by government agencies should be ruled out of this.

“The National Biosafety Management Agency will not make the mistake in the enforcement of this. We are very serious about this,’’ he said.

Umar Yahaya, the customer service manager of NEXT Cash and Carry Mall, asked the Nigerian government to provide guidelines so stores can comply with the law.

Have GM seed creators made good on the promises?

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time
the U.S. and Canada were embracing it. The New York Yimes compared yields on the two continents using independent data, academic and industry research.

The results show that the technology has fallen short of the promises. Genetic modification in the U.S. and Canada has not increased crop yields or reduced the use of chemical pesticides, New York Yimes reported:

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing
population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

The U.S. and Canada gained no advantage in yields — food per acre — over Western Europe, according to the findings. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found little evidence that GM crops in the U.S. were doing better than conventional crops.

However herbicide use has increased in the U.S. even as major crops like corn, soy and cotton have been converted to GM varieties. And the U.S. has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the use of herbicides and insecticides, NYT reported.

By contrast, France’s use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen 65 percent and herbicide use has decreased by 36 percent.

Fears about the harmful effects of eating GM foods have been proved mostly
without scientific basis. The potential harm from pesticides, however, has drawn
researchers’ attention.

The same companies that make and sell the genetically modified plants make and sell the chemicals to treat them, NYT reported:

Driven by these sales, the combined market capitalizations of Monsanto, the largest seed company, and Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide giant, have grown more than sixfold in the last decade and a half. The two companies are separately involved in merger agreements that would lift their new combined values to more than $100 billion each.

When presented with the Times’ findings, Robert T. Fraley, the chief technology officer at Monsanto, said The Times had cherry­picked its data to reflect poorly on the industry.

“Every farmer is a smart businessperson, and a farmer is not going to pay for a technology if they don’t think it provides a major benefit,” he said. “Biotech tools have clearly driven yield increases enormously.”